Saturday, September 21, 2013

Layang Layang, Malaysia

Located 300m off the northwestern coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. A tiny atoll in the middle of nowhere. Apart from the dive resort and the runway, a Malaysian Naval Station is situated on the other end of the island opposite the Resort which acts as an observation and training ground for the Royal Malaysian Navy so there is nothing much to do apart from diving, snorkelling or maybe some bird watching. Big part of the island was reclaimed from the sea so there isn't much of a beach on it either.

Layang Layang atoll
Layang Layang Island
The easiest way to get there is by chartered flight operate by MAS Wing, biggest flight being able to carry 20 passengers. The flight was part of the excitement of the trip, as it is a small plane, weight being the prime issue, you will go thru a process of weighing all your luggage and yourself at the airport. If you weight above 100kg, it could be an issue! No cabin compartment or space for any of your hand carry pelican case or huge backpack, just pray that there is an empty seat where you can stack everything together. The pilot cabin is open to the passengers cabin, you can see and even chat with the pilot if you are at the first few rows. :-) If you feel hot, just turn on the fan. Get a window seat if possible as the aerial view of small islands and atolls are stunning.

Layang Layang is situated in very deep waters with the drop off outside the island's reef falling away to approximately 2000 metres. Given its location in the middle of nowhere, the ocean waters are clear and unpolluted. Much like the well known Sipadan island except that over here it is too far for any fisherman boat to pass by, the fish life is abundant and the corals are in pristine condition, I would say much more healthier than Sipadan. The yearly affair of hammerheads gathering around the month of April and May made the name for this place. 

Passenger cabin

We flew to Kota Kinabalu and stayed overnight in a Hostel as our flight to Layang Layang is early morning the next day. However, the chartered flight has a little problem with the wheels and we were delayed for 4 hours, finally the announcement for departure. We boarded a 20 seaters twin otter plane, the seats were small which just fit me. I chose a window seat since the plane was not full. One hour later we approached a little atoll by a ring of reef, wow!! so beautiful!

Deluxe Room
Swimming Pool
Sunset from the Jetty

We checked into a huge room with 2 double bed and a small balcony, there is a swimming pool, a restaurant, a dive center, a little souvenir shop, a massage and a bird island sanctuary. It was really hot outside, we have our equipment setup and ready for our first dive in the afternoon. The resort jetty is facing the inner ring of the reef, all the dive sites are located at the outer ring except for the house reef. The water is very calm in the ring but as soon as the boat exit to the outer ring, it became windy and wavy. The DC is very strict with the dive profile, no Decompression dive and no dives above 40m. The Dive Master are all very experience.

Hammerhead Sharks
Our check up dive was at Wreck Point, we jump into this crystal clear water, the visibility can easily exceed 20m. The wall was beautiful with huge sponges and seafan hanging on it. The following day we were ready for our first hammerhead hunt dive at The Point. We descent and swim into the blue with no reference of direction. We search and search, looking high and low, suddenly the Dive Master made the call! In the blue, we spotted shadows of big fish, we went for it, it was almost 37m when we couldn't get any closer, they were school of hammerhead sharks! But I wasn't satisfy as there were too far away. Our next dive, we went to Wrasse Strip, swim into the blue again in search for hammers, with the time running up, Dive Master signal us to head back to the reef, a bit disappointed, we swim back reluctantly. As we were heading back, suddenly from nowhere the hammers appeared in front of us between the wall and us. F@#$#%, I could hardly contain my scream. They swam closer and closer, I held my breath, my heartbeat increase!! I wasn't sure why I did that, but I managed to snap a few shots in the mids of panicking. They circle us for a while and then disappear into the blue. Before I could get over the thrilling encounter, a huge manta swoop pass us at 10m. Wow! What the hell just happen! Even now as I write this blog I can still feel that moment happening in front of me. We were so lucky!

Giant Trevally
Over the next few days, we dove Mid Reef, the House Reef, Crack Reef, Dog Tooth Lair and repeated The Point and Wrasse Strip a couple of times (These are the 2 sites where Hammerhead are commonly spotted). We saw more hammerheads but not close, school of barracudas, jacks, giant trevally, dogtooth tuna, devil ray, turtles and white tip reef sharks almost every dives. The House Reef has it fair share of macro life like lion fish, octopus, flounder, nudis and moral eel.

Bird Sanctuary
On the last day, we visited the Bird Sanctuary, a small island built especially to house these sea birds, we saw thousands of Great crested tern, brown foot boobies, small chicks, Brown Noddy and many more species.

Overall Layang Layang has what it takes to be one of the top dive site in the world. Don't miss a chance to visit this place.

Travel date :  8 - 13 Apr 2010
Travel route : SG -F-> Kota Kinabalu -> F -> Layang Layang
Accommodation and diving : Layang Layang Island Resort (
Type of diving : Reef, wall
Water temperature : 28-30°C
Best time to dive : Feb to October with Apr-May best time to spot schooling hammerheads.

 -F-> Flight -B-> Boat -C-> Car
Into the blue

Schooling Hammerhead sharks

Hammerhead shark

Giant manta

School of Jacks

School of Jacks

White tip reef shark

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